Flooding on Delaware river prompts group to demand resevoir levels be lowered

They believe lower levels will help avoid floods like those that have done millions of dollars in damages and killed several people.

Environmental groups and residents fearful of flooding along the Delaware River are asking for more water to be released from three upstate New York reservoirs. Seven groups sent a letter to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the governors of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, asking that the water level be reduced “to the maximum extent feasible” for about a month. The mayor and governors jointly control the operation of the three reservoirs, the Pepacton, Cannonsville and Neversink. Three major floods between 2004 and 2006 caused several deaths and tens of millions of dollars in property damage along the Delaware, mostly in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The reservoirs were at or near capacity just before all three floods. Unable to store water from torrential rains, they sent billions of gallons down the river and into homes and businesses. Since then, groups have been closely monitoring the reservoir levels and have repeatedly sought to have them lowered. The reservoirs, which can store a combined 271 billion gallons of water, provide drinking water to 9 million people in the Delaware River basin. New York City has sought to keep them as full as possible as a hedge against drought. On Friday, the Pepacton and Neversink were full and Cannonsville was 98 percent full.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection was reviewing the groups’ letter, which was dated Dec. 22.
“We’re always looking for ways to be helpful as long as the critical mission of providing drinking water for 9 million people is not put at risk,” said department spokeswoman Mercedes Padilla. “We’ve taken significant steps to provide for flood attenuation and habitat protection.” Barry Ciccocioppo, spokesman for Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, said the governor saw no need for emergency action.
The authors of the letter were the North Delaware River Watershed Conservancy, Friends of the Upper Delaware River, Aquatic Conservation Unlimited, Delaware Riverside Conservancy, Drowning on the Delaware, Residents Against Flood Trends and Trout Unlimited.

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